I miss many things about working in a cafe. The smell of a freshly-opened tin of coffee beans, that hisses out as you pull back the metal lid. The meringue-like foam spooned carefully onto a cappuccino. The rustle of tea leaves shaken out of a jar. The witty (if I do say so myself) banter with customers. And not to forget the practically unlimited access to cake.
However, one thing that I don’t miss is working at the weekend. Everyone else is having a great time, and you’re at work. Helping them have a great time, but still. I relish going to a cafe in the weekend now, even if it’s to take pleasure in watching the waiters and waitresses rush around like headless chickens. What’s that long German word for it? Schadenfreude? Even though I take slight pleasure in their stress, I always make a point of assuring them that there’s no rush, and to get to us when they’re ready. I know what it’s like to have ten different table-fuls of people eyeing you meaningfully, all thinking they came in first.
In a bid to make my blog more ‘out and about’, me and my camera went on a jaunt to this lovely cafe just round the corner from my house. The cafe, called Cox and Baloney Vintage Tearoom, also houses a ’boutique’, selling vintage-inspired clothes. You have to book a table just to have tea in this place on a weekend it’s so popular. There’s a wide and impressive selection of loose leaf teas, with the standard English Breakfast (although it’s named ‘Mr Darcy’) rubbing shoulders with eccentric varieties such as strawberries and cream, containing white chocolate and strawberry pieces. We (and by ‘we’ I mean me and my friends, not my camera) were heartily encouraged to go up and smell the teas, which were standing proudly on the counter in glass jars. In the end, after much sniffing and deliberating, we opted for Sir Bountiful’s Bounty – Ceylon tea combined with a slightly bizarre mix of coconut slices, chocolate drops, thistle flowers and cornflowers. It turned out to be lovely – more than a hint of coconut, with a faint whiff of fragrance from the flowers.
The cafe is famous for its afternoon tea, which comprises scones, jam, clotted cream and an assortment of cakes and sandwiches, all piled high on a vintage cake stand. There was an impressive assortment of inventive and delicious looking cakes, including lots of gluten-free options. The coconut and chocolate sponge and an orange polenta cake were serious contenders, but in the end we narrowed it down to three: a peanut butter and chocolate cake, a cherry bakewell, and something called a ‘jewel cake’, studded with cranberries. The peanut butter cake was the winner for me, it’s one of those cakes that you’re not entirely sure how it’s made, but you instantly want to spend hours in the kitchen attempting to recreate it.
Our experience of Cox and Baloney was very good: delicious tea and cake, polite and attentive staff all in a lovely atmosphere. The ‘vintage’ theme is so often overdone, but here it really added to the experience. We all loved the mismatched china our tea was served in, some retro to the point of garish, and I am a bit of a cutlery obsessive, so the bone-handled silverware was appreciated. I know it’s a cliche to end with this, but I will definitely be returning. Mostly because of the peanut butter cake.